Date: February 2, 2018
Author: Lauren Stahl
Venue: Mysterious Bookstore, Tribeca
Free Drinks: white and red
Q & A: no
Drone-On-Meter Reading: event too short
"The fingernails of the corpse were intact" is the passage I remember from Lauren Stahl’s reading from her first novel., "The Devil's Song." No sooner had I taken that in, than the reading was over. The Kaylie Jones Books author had said she would only read two paragraphs and she did.
It might not have been the debut of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring in 1913 or Bob Dylan going electric in the early 60s, but in its own modest way, the brevity of her performance was revolutionary.It was handy for my new pal, George, because he had to get to his job as a legal proofreader. He told me he was friends with Stahl’s publisher, Ms. Jones. Apparently, they studied martial arts together. “We got the same belt,” he said.
A publisher who can kick ass is a scary thought. Part of her job, no doubt, is to deal with her writers’ egocentric demands and the martial arts training means she has an option that, presumably, more conventional publishers like Johnny Temple or Jonathan Galassi lack.
Stahl’s quickie reading also meant that what I intend as the primary civilizing mission of “In the Front Row, On the Dole,” namely, telling authors when they have droned on too long was moot.
Luckily, it turned out that George and I both worked at the Strand bookstore in the early 80s. We talked about the former Strand owner, Fred Bass, who died last month. George lasted longer at the store than I did. It sounded like he had worked in every department.Bass was a generous man and someone who helped support legions of young writers and artists by hiring them. I used to fetch his lunch every day from the First Avenue Deli. Some young people arrive in New York from places like Kansas and understandably everything seems strange. I had counted myself a relative sophisticate. But every afternoon, when I had to yell Fred's order to the counterman, tongue sandwich on rye, I realized I had a lot to learn.
Anyway, at the Mysterious Bookshop last night people mingled and bought books. I’m looking forward to reading "The Devil's Song." Employees at the Strand nowadays really like Maggie Nelson. Watch for the super-short reading coming to an independent bookstore near you soon. George left for work. I put the Drone-On-Meter back in its case and headed for home.
I still haven’t tried tongue.